19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
The word key is intriguing in relation to priesthood is intriguing. Priesthood “holdeth the key.” This leads me to reflect on the “keys” held in our hands and pockets on a daily basis. Without the right keys, there is no dependable access into the spaces in which we live, travel, and attend to life and so many of its joys and responsibilities. A lost key is an obvious stalemate we remedy as soon as possible.
Of course, urgent efforts to regain keys depend upon my recognizing when a key is out of our possession, such as a key to a new apartment I have yet to move into, my misplaced car key in the morning, or a broken mailbox key when bills are expected.
Yet, what if there are additional locks and keys I am ignorant of? What if I have misplaced, or am actually oblivious to keys that would reshape patterns of life?—like a mysterious PO box addressed in my name, an unknown ancestral home, or a forgotten chest in Grandma’s attic. Messages, treasures, and relationships are left undiscovered. To me this seems analogous to what was experienced by the descendents of Moses and Aaron. It is tragic that they lost keys for generations that left them spiritually impoverished relative to the precious covenants and knowledge they could have enjoyed.
Question: What might be included in the “mysteries of the kingdom”? How are these mysteries unlocked; what does this look like in real life?
Some thoughts: In terms of discovering the “mysteries” of earthly kingdoms (human culture, nature, etc), we require keys to facilitate many of our learning experiences. I think of three basic kinds of objects key under lock and key: 1) Keys open pathways/gates (such as garden paths, hikes, and even roads). 2) Keys open containers/receptacles with information and archives inside, such as a filing cabinet (I think of my own cedar chest, which I fill with handmade things from Grandmothers and family history documents). 3) Keys also open buildings and other spaces designated for us to connect, work, learn, and socialize with other.
There are multitude of ways physical keys provide access to knowledge, relationships, and experiences. Relative to this, I imagine that tongue cannot tell the full extent of the learning experiences and joys to be opened by the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. I believe that many of the experiences of endowed members are related to the revelatory power of these keys in ways we do not yet fully understand.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
Question: Are the ordinances “the mysteries of the kingdom?” I take this first part, “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof,” to mean that the ordinances are opened with the key of priesthood, and are thus that ordinances are identified as the mysteries referred to in verse 19. This verse challenges what I just suggested about the mysteries being very inclusive to many kinds of spiritual and learning experiences. Should “the mysteries of God” and “the knowledge of God” be precisely defined as that which is revealed and conferred in the administration of gospel ordinances?
The ordinances are prescriptive for life and salvation. But are there non-prescriptive ways outside the ordinances themselves God’s mysteries are unlocked specifically through the Melchezidek priesthood, and if how are the keys working and unlocking knowledge of God and His mysteries in our lives? Do faithful women who have received the ordinances of the gospel unlock God’s mysteries on a regular basis?
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
Question: What is the “power of godliness” and how is it manifest to us while in our mortal bodies through the priesthood?
Some thoughts: I’ve been pondering how there are many undertones surrounding connections between pure, never ending, all-enduring love and God’s priesthood in this revelation. The power of godliness is manifest through the Lord’s discouragement-immune efforts to sanctify human beings and provide opportunities for them to know him, understand precious truths from the past, and to help past generations to be redeemed. After centuries, the Lord is still mindful of peoples, and mercifully restoring their rights to be near him. God’s perfect love is directly manifest in the ordinances through cleansing power, expressions of forgiveness, and precious promises of eternal joy, righteousness, relationships, health, and life.
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
I once heard a former temple president of the Taipei Taiwan mission share how “falling down” experiences are part of Buddhist traditions. When sacred, superior beings unexpectedly appear, humans fall down (this reminds me of the falling down that occurs to King Lamoni and his household and Ammon in Alma 19-20). He went on to suggest that perhaps one reason why we need to practice being embraced by God and passing into His presence repeatedly in the temple is so that when we do enter His presence, we will stand without falling.
Verse 22 sheds light on the endowment. Being enrobed in the priesthood makes our safe passage into the veil possible. This leads me into thoughts about how charity and priesthood are somewhat synonymous when we cross reference scriptural passages. We are to clothe ourselves with charity as with a mantle (D&C 88:125), imagery similar to putting on the robes of priesthood. Charity, like priesthood, is also something that is promised to endure with us forever (Moroni 7:47). It seems to me that to be clothed fully in priesthood is to be fully clothed in charity. We learn in Doctrine and Covenants 121 that the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon us as we let our “bowels be filled with charity toward all men” (see vs. 41-45)
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
A softened heart and wiliness to embrace the truth that we need the priesthood to become clean and spiritually worthy seem to be the basic things the Lord needs of us. A contrite heart and willingness to “observe covenants by sacrifice” are what make us fully acceptable before God, and qualify us to embark on the journey to sanctification (D&C 97:8).
It is interesting that the Lord’s presence is to the unsanctified is a place of great intensity, danger, and unrest (even death), while to the sanctified, it is promised as the quintessential form of rest.
Another possible question: How do we experience the Lord’s rest while in the wilderness in our lives? How do we enter his rest before being fully sanctified and within his presence?